Constipation is not a disease but rather a series of symptoms caused by a number of different factors. Defining constipation is not an easy task, since the frequency of normal bowel defecations differs from person to person.
Generally, we talk about constipation when the frequency of bowel defecations is less than 2-3 times per week or when they take place with great difficulty and are accompanied with pain and exhaustion.
Constipated patients* are those who do not use laxatives and report at least two of the following symptoms, fulfilled for the last 3 months with symptom onset at least 6 months prior to diagnosis:
- less than 3 bowel defecations per week
- hard or lumpy stools in at least 25% of defecations
- sensation of incomplete evacuation in at least 25% of defecations
- sensation of anorectal obstruction /blockage for at least 25% of defecations
- manual manoeuvers necessary to facilitate defecation in at least 25% of defecations
There are two main types of constipation: occasional (e.g. due to changes in diet, stress, lifestyle changes, frequent travelling) and chronic (e.g. due to a certain illness or medication use).
*Rome III Diagnostic Criteria for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders